Christopher's Third Street Grille, Dover, NH. May 1, 2008
I had been playing solo at Christopher's since last August. About a month ago, tenor saxophonist John Melisi sat in one night. Since then, it's been a duo. John is a masterful and sensitive player; his warm tone and exciting solos really bring this gig to life. (I need to get Mal to take some photos of the duo.)
Last week, the bar had been packed for our first set. Tonight it was nearly empty. We try to play quietly when there are few people in the bar; the music carries into the adjoining dining room, so when there are few people to soak up the sound, we have to be careful. I suggested that, for a change, we open with "I'll Remember April." John said he always has trouble "holding back" on that tune, and suggested "Dindi" instead. "Dindi" came out nicely.
During the first tune, two women, who we recognized from last week, took a seat at one of the three hightop tables near us. After the first tune they applauded. John acknowledged their applause and they commented that they had come especially to hear us. John asked if they had a favorite tune. One of them requested "How High the Moon" so we played that, much to their delight. They stayed for most of the long first set, and seemed to really enjoy the music.
Later in the night, when the bar was full, we played "I'll Remember April." John's solo was exciting. When we traded fours, his lines were so dazzling, I had a tough time responding with my fours. But that's the kind of moment that spurs both of us on to better playing. "Green Dolphin Street" was equally exciting; on that one I tried some on-the-spot chord-melody reharms in my fours -- but they didn't work out very well. I need to shed that final descending chord progression.
During the second set, there was a woman sitting alone at the table in the far corner of the bar, obviously enjoying the music and applauding after most tunes. As the last tune of the set, I called "Take Five." As always, John played the melody beautifully, with a light tone reminiscent of Desmond. Right after we started the tune, the woman left the table at the back of the room and took a seat at one of the empty tables near us, a big smile on her face. She listened with obvious delight, and when she finished the tune, she stood up and said, "Thank you! I have the original vinyl of that song. Thank for playing that. Thank you from Dave Brubeck. Thank you from Palo Alto, California. I'm from California and I came in here tonight not knowing that I would hear such great music, and not knowing I would hear that song. Thank you!" We thanked her for listening and said we were glad she enjoyed the song. She went back to her corner table and stayed through most of the last set, smiling and applauding.
One of my favorite tunes of the night was "O Grande Amor." John plays the melody beautifully. It's a real challenge, especially for a jazz player with monster chops such as John has, to eschew all that and state the melody simply and graciously; but John's a master and knows how to do that. He has great respect for melody.
Another tune I've been having a lot of fun playing lately is "Blue Bossa." Here's a sound clip of the rhythm I play on that tune. It's a really infectious rhythm. More than once while I'm playing that tune with John or Danny Harrington, I've looked out into the audience and noticed a women or two swaying gently to the rhythm.
The tables turned over pretty quickly, and there was a lull at the beginning of our last set. But as the set progressed, quite a few people came in. On young man sitting at the bar turned to listen to the music, smiling broadly. John acknowledge his applause and chatted with him a bit. It was clear that the guy was a musician. John asked if he had a request, and he asked for "Giant Steps." That was the first time I'd ever had a request for that in a restaurant. We thought it wise not to attempt that challenging piece, so John said, "How about 'Stella'?" The guy said, "'Stella By Starlight'? Sure!" We played an uptempo version, and it went over well.
During the night several other people had commented on how much they enjoyed the music. It was a good night.